"Lead generation is the mantra in our business. The fact that I get leads that come to me are really great. They raise their hands and say I'm interested. It doesn't get better than that."
Agent's Persistence Landed Her an REO Listing
Even before she joined RealtyTrac, Marie Leaner was a top producing agent with Keller Williams in the Chicago area, selling upwards of $6 million a year in real estate. But as the market took a downturn, so did her sales volume.
She determined that a change in marketing strategy was in order, so she signed up with RealtyTrac about two years ago. It’s a business decision that has paid big dividends for her.
Leaner’s RealtyTrac territory generates her approximately five to six buyer leads a week. In the past six months alone she has closed escrow on three deals generated from RealtyTrac leads, and was set to close on two more during the month of March — one with an out-of-state buyer and one with a client who came into the office for an interview.
“The out-of-state buyer was looking for something for his daughter. She was renting and in law school and paying $1,800 a month,” Leaner said. When the negotiating was done, her client's offer at 90 percent of the asking price was accepted.
Leaner mostly works with condos, typically 1,100 square feet with three bedrooms, two baths, a garage and selling in the range of $250,000 to $300,000.
Her best RealtyTrac generated deal so far came last December with a buyer who saw a foreclosed town home on the RealtyTrac website in the neighborhood he wanted.
“He called me because I was the Realtor assigned to that area. I went to the property and tried to make contact with the owner and found someone who knew the owner and contacted the owner for me. It was really the tenant.”
She finally identified the distressed owner the day before the property was set to go to auction on the courthouse steps, but it was too late. By the time she got to the owner the property was sold. Her buyer thought the property was gone, but she reassured him she would try to get it for him.
She was relentless in locating the buyer, which was an LLC corporation. She attempted to locate it on the Internet, finding only its attorneys. Her assistant eventually found the true owner’s name and contact information buried within the text of a 50-page lawsuit.
“I called them and talked to the head of acquisitions who asked, ‘How did you find me? We are so well cloaked.’ He told me what to do with our offer,” she said. “We bought it before it was even listed.”
In the end, the owner accepted her buyer’s offer, and the deal closed December 2007 for $606,000. A three bedroom, two-and-a-half bath town home on three levels, the property previously sold in December 2002 for $620,000. It is located in a neighborhood where the town homes (all around 3,400 square feet) typically sell for $875,000.
The lender involved with that property was so inspired by how she hunted down the owner that they took Leaner on as an approved agent for their REO listings. So far they’ve given her one listing to work on.
When Leaner receives her RealtyTrac-generated leads, the first thing she does is call.
“I’m more of a voice person. I want to get to know the person on the other end. Sometimes they call me — rare, but it does happen. It’s a good way of pre-qualifying people.”
Then she follows up with an e-mail if she can’t reach them by phone. Once she contacts them and pre-qualifies them, she invites them to her office for a 15- to 20-minute interview where she explains what they can expect from her and what she expects from them.
“A lot of people have unrealistic expectations. Some of them think when they see $35,000 or $300,000 on a property it’s a deal. I explain it’s probably the assessor’s value of the property and not near the market value. They think they can make this big killing. I tell them no!
“I tell them if want something now, they need REOs. If they’re patient and not in a hurry, then they can look at the pre-foreclosures. If they have a lot of money on hand, then they can look at auctions. Most of my people are going REO. Most want instant gratification, so most are not going the pre-foreclosure route.”
Working with REO buyers is much easier and less time consuming than working with pre-foreclosures, admits Leaner, so she prefers them because she also has other buyers who are looking for retail property. “I like to be able to shift when things shift and bend when things bend.”
Working with so many buyers looking for foreclosure properties has changed the way Leaner approaches the business.
“I’ve altered my mindset again. Now, I’m just out to help people. Before it was like, ‘Are you going to buy now?’”